A number of recent studies have looked into whole body vibration therapy contraindications and the effects of whole body therapy platforms on the health of bones. I recently updated my blog post on whole body vibration therapy for osteoporosis where I talk extensively about the health issues associated with high intensity vibration and the benefits of low intensity vibration plate therapy.
This technical article on whole body vibration therapy contraindications has been prepared for health professionals (Physiotherapists, Physical Therapists, etc) who treat clients with osteoporosis, osteopenia and low bone density.
Any health professional considering purchasing a whole body vibration platform for their clinic or recommending a whole body platform to their clients should read my blog post on whole body vibration therapy for osteoporosis.
Theories on How Whole Body Vibration Affects Bone
- Like physical activity, Whole Body Vibration activates receptors in bone and stimulates bone building. This theory proposes that movement of the vibration plate generates a “tonic vibration reflex,” similar to the stretch reflex. The tonic vibration reflex has been reported to be activated continuously during Whole Body Vibration so that the muscles continue to contract and relax until the stimulus stops (1). Consequently, bone may respond to the applied forces generated during muscle contractions from a tonic vibration reflex.
- Whole Body Vibration may also influence bone building indirectly via a hormonal response. Whole Body Vibration has been shown to acutely alter testosterone and growth hormone levels (2, 3). The combination of a mechanical load and Whole Body Vibration exposure may stimulate larger increases in growth hormone than mechanical load alone.
- The essential ingredient is the intensity of the vibration. You want to make sure that the intensity is within an acceptable range to benefit the user while not causing harm. The intensity level contributes significantly to the whole body vibration therapy contraindications. My interview, below, with Dr. Clinton Rubin explains this is detail.
The Six Variables for Vibration Plate Therapy
The six variables of a vibration platform that affect your bones are:
- Direction of the vibration
- Frequency vibration (in hertz),
- Magnitude vibration measured as amplitude. Amplitude describes how much motion exists in each direction (in millimetres). Magnitude of a vibration stimulus is a combination of amplitude and acceleration.
- Acceleration describes how quickly the motion exists in each direction (in gravitational units, where 1.0 g = 9.81 m/s2),
- Time on the platform
- Body position/posture on the platform.
Standing straight will enhance the ability of the vibration to move up the legs through the hip and spine, whereas a relaxed stance (i.e., bent knees) will decrease the ability of the vibration to move past the hips. (4).
Direction of the Vibration
A number of different WBV platforms are commercially available (5-9), and they provide a vibratory stimulus in one of two ways:
- Vertical displacements. On such platforms the entire platform moves uniformly.
- Oscillatory alternating displacements. These platforms do not have a uniform displacement. The platform oscillates over a central fulcrum, intended to simulate how humans walk.
Frequency and Magnitude of the Vibration
- A WBV platform provides several different vibration frequency and magnitude options.
- Studies that demonstrate improvements in muscle strength and size using WBV have employed frequencies of 25 to 45 Hz (2,11-19).
- Frequencies between 20 and 70 Hz are the recommended safety range.
Whole Body Vibration Therapy Plate Contraindications
Registered equipment manufacturers have identified a number of whole body vibration therapy contraindications and suggest that individuals who have one of the following conditions should not partake in WBV training:
- Kidney or bladder stones.
- A pacemaker.
- Untreated orthostatic hypotension.
- Recent implants (joint/corneal/cochlear, etc.).
- Recent surgery.
- Recently placed intrauterine devices or pins.
- Acute thrombosis or hernia, acute rheumatoid arthritis.
- Serious cardiovascular disease.
- Severe diabetes.
Among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), several adverse events were reported including pain, pressure sores on the feet, autonomic dysreflexia, and dizziness, which were largely attributed to the passive standing portion of the intervention.
Researchers at Lyndhurst Centre caution that Whole Body Vibration may elicit inner ear troubles, dizziness, headache, lower-limb spasticity, fracture (especially among those with severe osteoporosis), and/or hardware loosening (plates or screws as a result of surgery).(19)
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of Whole Body Vibration on BMD in postmenopausal women concluded that Whole Body Vibration slows down bone loss at the hip (20) the benefits are similar to walking.
- De Gail P, Lance JW, Neilson PD. Differential effects on tonic and phasic reflex mechanisms produced by vibration of muscles in man. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1966; 29(1): 1–11
- Bosco C, Iacovelli M, Tsarpela O, Cardinale M, Bonifazi M, Tihanyi J, Viru M, De Lorenzo A, Viru A. Hormonal responses to whole-body vibration in men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000; 81(6):449–54.
- Kvorning T, Bagger M, Caserotti P, Madsen K. Effects of vibration and resistance training on neuromuscular and hormonal measures. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006;96(5):615–25.
- Rubin C, Pope M, Fritton JC, Magnusson M, Hansson T, McLeod K. Transmissibility of 15-hertz to 35-hertz vibrations to the human hip and lumbar spine: Determining the physiologic feasibility of delivering low-level anabolic mechanical stimuli to skeletal regions at greatest risk of fracture because of osteoporosis. Spine. 2003; 28(23): 2621–27.
- Whole Body Advanced Vibration Exercise [Internet]. Windsor (Canada): WAVE Manufacturing Inc; c2009 [updated 2009; cited 2008 Apr 1]. Available from: http://www.wavexercise.com/.
- VibraFlex [Internet]. Naples (FL): Orthometrix, Inc; c2006–9 [updated 2009 Jun 1; cited 2009 Jan 15]. Avail- able from: http://www.vibraflex.com/.
- TurboSonic [Internet]. Hood River (OR): TurboSonic USA; c2007–8 [updated 2008; cited 2009 Jan 15]. Avail- able from: http://www.turbosonicusa.com/.
- Galileo: Whole Body Vibration [Internet]. Hornsby Heights (Australia): Novotec Medical; c2008 [updated 2008 Mar 11; cited 2009 Jan 17]. Available from: http://www.galileowholebodyvibration.com.au/.
- Juvent [Internet]. Somerset (NJ): Juvent Medical, Inc; c2007 [updated 2007; cited 2009 Jan 17]. Available from: http://www.juvent.com/.
- Delecluse C, Roelants M, Verschueren S. Strength increase after whole-body vibration compared with resistance train- ing. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35(6):1033–41.
- Bosco C, Cardinale M, Tsarpela O. Influence of vibration on mechanical power and electromyogram activity in human arm flexor muscles and whole body vibration therapy contraindications. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999;79(4):306–11.
- Bosco C, Colli R, Introini E, Cardinale M, Tsarpela O, Madella A, Tihanyi J, Viru A. Adaptive responses of human skeletal muscle to vibration exposure and whole body vibration therapy contraindications. Clin Phys- iol. 1999;19(2):183–87.
- Kerschan-Schindl K, Grampp S, Henk C, Resch H, Preis- inger E, Fialka-Moser V, Imhof H. Whole-body vibration exercise leads to alterations in muscle blood volume. Clin Physiol. 2001;21(3):377–82.
- Abercromby AF, Amonette WE, Layne CS, McFarlin BK, Hinman MR, Paloski WH. Variation in neuromuscular responses during acute whole-body vibration exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(9):1642–50.
- Torvinen S, Kannus P, Sievänen H, Järvinen TA, Pasanen M, Kontulainen S, Järvinen TL, Järvinen M, Oja P, Vuori I. Effect of four-month vertical whole body vibration on per- formance and balance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34(9):1523–28.
- Torvinen S, Kannus P, Sievänen H, Järvinen TA, Pasanen M, Kontulainen S, Nenonen A, Järvinen TL, Paakkala T, Järvinen M, Vuori I. Effect of 8-month vertical whole body vibration on bone, muscle performance, and body balance: A randomized controlled study. J Bone Miner Res. 2003;18(5):876–84.
- Roelants M, Delecluse C, Goris M, Verschueren S. Effects of 24 weeks of whole body vibration training on body composition and muscle strength in untrained females. Int J Sports Med. 2004;25(1):1–5.
- Torvinen S, Kannu P, Sievänen H, Järvinen TA, Pasanen M, Kontulainen S, Järvinen TL, Järvinen M, Oja P, Vuori I. Effect of a vibration exposure on muscular performance and body balance and whole body vibration therapy contraindications. Randomized cross-over study. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2002;22(2):145–52.
- Craven BC. Effectiveness of vibration and standing versus standing alone for the treatment of osteoporosis for people with spinal cord injury. http://clinicaltrials.gov/, NCT00150683; 2001.
- Slatkovska L, Alibhai SMH, Beyene J, Cheung AM, edi- tors. The efficacy of whole-body vibration in reducing bone loss in postmenopausal women: A meta-analysis. Proceedings of the ASBMR 30th Annual Meeting; 2008 Sep 12–16; Montreal, Canada. Washington (DC): ASBMR.
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Amy B. says
I am interested in a home vibration platform to help with osteopenia.It is in the femoral neck, hip & spine seem OK. I am 5″5″ tall & weigh 110 pounds (50kg) and walk a lot! What machine would you suggest for increasing BMD.
Margaret Martin says
If you can afford it. I would recommend the Juvent. It is easy to transport, very quiet and shown to be effective if are of slim build. It is effective for your femoral neck (part of your hip bone), your total hip but no vibration platform can build the spine. You would need specific exercises for this. Like brisk walking and running, the vibration of the platform is only strong enough to travel up the leg and not past your pelvis. Should you decide you want to add exercises, my book Exercise for Better Bones, outlines which exercises target the spine and which target the hips or wrists.
All the best.
All the best.
Ann C says
Dear Margaret, I have osteopenia, but my bigger problem is lipolymphedema. WBM is recommended for this, to help move lymph, but I’ve been told (not by a professional) that anyone who’s had blood clot problems shouldn’t use it. I had a massive pulmonary embolism in July 2019 and have been on a blood thinner ever since. Additionally, I weigh 308 pounds. If it’s safe, I would be thrilled, because managing this lipolymphedema is a bear and some therapists say this would help a lot. If safe, can you recommend a machine that is quiet but can also handle my weight? I truly appreciate your informed opinion.
Richard Martin says
Hi Ann. Margaret rarely uses or suggests patients use vibration platforms and instead promotes exercise or manual therapy as modalities. You should check manufacturer specs for weight limits.